The Travel Hop reveals the best Australian restaurants for celebrity spotting
If you're on the hunt for a delectable meal with the added potential for a star encounter, then heading to one of Australia’s celebrity restaurants could be the answer.
After all, no matter how famous they are, a celeb’s got to eat, right? And considering the ever-increasing number of A-listers pouring into Australia, nationwide there are eateries that have become go-to's for some of the biggest homegrown and international names. So, for dining with a side of celeb-spotting, read on for the eateries that should be on your hit-list.
Otto's dazzling location on Woolloomooloo's Finger Wharf is a big part of its appeal
Located on the historic Finger Wharf in Sydney’s harbour front suburb, Woolloomooloo, Otto has been a staple for the city’s elite for 16 years, not least because of its dazzling location. Spilling out onto the wharf itself, half of the restaurant is al fresco, taking advantage of the views across sun or moon-dappled water, and the glow of the city high rises. Otto is fine dining in Sydney at its best!
Focusing on seasonal, Australian produce, the modern Italian eatery is great for brunch, dinner, or a long lazy lunch. It has also become a magnet for local and visiting celebs with past guests reading like a who’s who. Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Zac Efron and Danni Minogue have all dined here, and Russell Crowe called this swanky Italian his local until he put his luxurious Finger Wharf apartment on the market last year as part of a divorce settlement with ex-wife, Danielle Spencer.
Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Zac Efron and Danni Minogue have all dined at Otto
MUST-TRY: With fresh pasta handmade made in-house every day and mouth-watering fresh Australian seafood, you’re truly spoilt for choice. Standouts include the Tasmanian crayfish spaghetti, fettuccine with black Australian truffles and the carpaccio of Angus beef with truffle dressing.
CHIN CHIN, MELBOURNE
Chin Chin has become a Melbourne institution
Australia’s most reviewed restaurant of 2015 and the most successful restaurant Melbourne has ever seen - how’s that for an accolade?
Since opening in mid-2011, the Asian-inspired, hipster restaurant has attracted a steady stream of crowds with hungry Melbournian foodies queueing almost every night of the week. But in this city of laneways where new eateries pop up (and often close) in rapid succession, curiously Chin Chin’s popularity hasn’t lessened, in fact, it has increased.
After appearing on MasterChef Chin Chin has seen the likes of Pink and Roger Federer dine
After a constant steam of press and an appearance on MasterChef, the restaurant has become a must-try for visitors. And a very recent refurbishment - which has seen a new bar, new artwork, new unisex loos and an extra 14-plus new dishes on the menu - has added more fuel to the publicity machine. Given this hype, it stands to reason that there had been a fair few celebs making their way to the Flinders Lane eatery, including superstar singer, Pink,
Jerry Hall, and during the Australian Open, Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
MUST-TRY: This place is as famous for its queues as it is for its curries, and there’s plenty of them to choose from. The Rendang curry of wagyu beef is a perennial favourite, as is the red curry with braised duck. For spice fiends, the ‘scud city’ jungle curry is a hot-pick (literally).
Sydney's Catalina is a regular for the A-list
A surefire winner for any sunny day - and luckily in Sydney there’s plenty of those - Catalina is guaranteed to impress even the most jaded of restaurant-goers. Positioned on the edge of the water by the marina in Rose Bay, wraparound windows and a stunning deck terrace show off the surrounding beach, ocean, sailboats and city skyline to perfection. This is Sydney fine dining with a real knockout view.
Over the past 25 years Catalina has welcomed more celebrities than perhaps any other Sydney venue, which is an impressive feat. Leonardo Di Caprio, Katy Perry, Zac Efron, Bono, Charlize Theron, Al Pacino, Pharrell, Nicole Kidman…the list goes on and on. Speaking of Aussie power-players, a few years back, Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts, enjoyed a double date there with their other halves (Deborra-Lee Furness and Liev Schreiber) who were papped exiting together after a fun-filled night.
Book ahead for one of Catalina's coveted al fresco tables
MUST-TRY: Catalina is a seafood-lovers dream. Think freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters from the best growers on the NSW coast, house smoked salmon, poached western Australian marron tail, pan-fried snapper, pan-seared scallops, and melt-in-the-mouth toothfish. It’s practically an impossibility to have a bad meal here.
BALCONY BAR & OYSTER CO, BYRON BAY
Chris Hemsworth is one of the locals you might encounter at Balcony Bar & Oyster Co
Metres from Byron’s main beach, Balcony Bar & Oyster Co overlooks the hustle and bustle of the seaside town’s busy streets. Reminiscent of a beach house with whitewashed surfaces, weathered wood and tin roofing, tropical ferns and a giant wrap around verandah, also add to the holiday vibe.
Ed Sheeran and Delta Goodrem were both spotted here, and two months ago, Byron local - and blockbuster movie star - Chris Hemsworth who has a $7 million lavish home up the road in Broken Head, took his entire brood here for a laid-back Sunday lunch.
MUST-TRY: Oysters - lots of oysters. Plus, Yamba prawns, crab and lettuce tacos and Award-winning chef and owner, Sean Connolly’s, signature fish and chips, which are fried in duck fat. Yum.
NAUTILUS, PORT DOUGLAS
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey were regulars at Nautilus in Port Douglas
Though you might not expect to find one of the country’s most illustrious celebrity eateries in the sleepy Queensland town of Port Douglas, Nautilus is up there with the country’s most chichi of establishments.
Housed under a canopy of rainforest and twinkling fairy nights, the lush, tropical, open air setting has obviously done a lot to charm its A-list audience. Indeed, the restaurant’s celebrity credentials were evident from the beginning beginnings. The current family of owners bought the property from Diane Cilento, who was previously married to Sean Connery and was a first cousin to the Queen. Since then an A to Z of stars have walked through its doors. From Aussie personalities, including regular diner, Peter Allen, and more recently pop princess, Kylie Minogue (who stayed true blue by insisting that the wines she drank during dinner were “Australian only”), to international big guns, including George Clooney and Bill Clinton.
Pop princess, Kylie Minogue, has dined at Nautilus
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey were regulars while filming Fools Gold in the area, even organising a special Thanksgiving dinner for the American crew. The Hollywood hunk loved Nautilus so much that he was a regular during the three months he spent in town prior to filming, even celebrating his birthday here.
MUST-TRY: The 7-course degustation, which includes the restaurant’s two most beloved dishes: the mango shuffle and the coral trout. Actor, Sean Penn, was such a fan of the trout that he has it as a weekly takeaway dish, affectionately dubbing the lauded eatery the “fish and chip shop.”
Perugino is a Perth institution and a celebrity hotspot
Owned and operated by Italian chef Giuseppe Pagliaricci and his wife since 1986, Perugino is a Perth institution. Ingredients are both seasonal and locally sourced and the dishes are Italian though and through. Seating inside is all white tablecloths and sommeliers, whereas outside in the courtyard it’s more casual.
Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Beyonce and Jay Z have all dined at Perugino
A favourite with visiting big league musos, three years ago Rolling Stones legend, Mick Jagger, dined here with bandmate, Ronnie Wood, and previously Beyonce, Jay Z and daughter, Blue Ivy, also enjoyed dinner here.
MUST-TRY: The 7-course ‘gourmet menu’. At $100 a pop it features some of the best of Perugino’s offering, including fresh ravioli filled with veal and chicken and the west Australian tiger prawns tossed with chardonnay, herbs and butter.
The stunning interior of the Opera House's Bennelong restaurant
Following a multi-million dollar refurb (it reopened in 2015) the restaurant is back and is better than ever. Now under the helm of three-hatted chef, Peter Gilmore, the three-level layout offers a different experience in each. On the lower level, a signature Peter Gilmore menu, quick eats in the middle section, and a more casual pre or post-theatre dining experience on the top level, where doors handily lead directly to the Opera House performance hall entrances.
Given its location, Bennelong is the perfect pre or post-show dining experience
Of course, given its location and resident celebrity chef, the glitterati have flocked here en masse, with both local heavyweights - including, Russell Crowe, Curtis Stone and Mel Gibson - and international ones, such as Nigella Lawson, Florence Welch and Julie Andrews, all dining in the staggeringly beautiful restaurant. Yes, it’s pricey, and yes, there’s a tourist or two, but this is truly the pinnacle of Australian fine dining.
MUST-TRY: Paying homage to Australia, the all-Aussie menu showcases just how amazing the local produce is. Signature dishes include the south coast NSW, john dory, which comes roasted on the bone, and the grilled Tasmanian octopus. But its in the desserts where Bennelong’s Australian-focused menu can clearly be seen with reinterpretations of the classic Aussie Lamington and pavlova, the latter of which is made to resemble the Opera House complete with meringue ‘sails’ and ‘tiles.’